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Discussion Starter #1
I've been trying to troubleshoot some upper register response issues on my sopranino, and looking down the inside of the horn, it looks like the "pips" for the high F# and palm E aren't flush with the tube (see pic). Would this cause an inconsistent upper register? Am I just looking for excuses for my lack of experience on the small squeaky thing? For reference, I'm playing a newly refaced Caravan with Rovner Dark and Legere reeds.
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very strange way to have made this horn, this is NOT the normal way for toneholes to be applied ( if they aren’t pulled) the tonehole is soldered upon, on the outside, of the instrument.


 

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So perhaps it was done like this on purpose for some acoustic reason.
There have been stranger things done by reputable makers to the upper bore of sopranos, like threading part of the bore.
 

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It's common on sopranos and sopraninos to solder the tiny little palm key tone hole chimneys instead of pulling them. They definitely shouldn't protrude into the bore though -- that could indeed be hurting your response.

Here on my Yanagisawa sopranino you can see they are (silver) soldered to the body, but on the inside they're flush with the bore. What brand are you dealing with?


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Discussion Starter #5
What brand are you dealing with?
It's an Orpheo, which I believe was made in Taiwan, but I can't find any hard evidence one way or the other. Nice little horn, but the high end is kicking my butt.

Can the chimneys be burnished flush, or filed down, or...?
 

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That said ... there are lots of other variables that affect the top end of these tiny little saxlets, especially embouchure and voicing.
And mouthpieces. I've tried a bunch of 'nino mouthpieces and found that Yanagisawa (metal and hard rubber) and Selmer Paris all do a superior job.
 

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Maybe because those tone holes are so small, they 'short-cut' it and soldered them in by placing from the inside with a thin flange to stop them and be the bonding surface - like an open-top hat with a narrow brim. This probably would have zero effect on your problem.
 

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It's an Orpheo, which I believe was made in Taiwan, but I can't find any hard evidence one way or the other. Nice little horn, but the high end is kicking my butt.

Can the chimneys be burnished flush, or filed down, or...?
Interesting. I've seen a huge difference in quality and attention to details like this across different Taiwan factories.

It will be very hard to file all that brass in there without messing up the surrounding bore. Have you tried other mouthpieces?
 

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No, you can't do anything about it. Sanding down the flange, if it were even possible in that tiny bore without damaging the bore, would de-construct the tone hole. You have latched onto this as the cause of your problem when it most likely has nothing to do with it. I've never even tried a 'nino but regular soprano is hard enough in the palm keys to get them to speak and play in tune at the same time, so I imagine its twice as bad on the little horn. You'll just have to find the set-up that gives you that top end without sacrificing everything else.
You might go ahead and remove the keys in question so you can look into the tone holes and make sure they are completely open.
My WWBW tipped-bell soprano came with high G and G# back in '98. Looking at the G# tone hole, I saw that it had a deep notch in it that the soft pad was filling. I corked those two keys shut and never thought twice about it. On any Taiwan or China/Viet-Nam sax, you are liable to find anything. At the least, be prepared to work on it for a week before taking it out of the house and that's only if you are lucky and have the right set-up to make it sound right and play mostly in tune.
 

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I'd say this is an example of questionable fabrication, quite honestly. For whatever reason it was easier for the factory to do it this way, and here's the result.

I am not going to rush to judgment and say 'no this is not causing your problem'. I mean, if you are a somewhat experienced player and you have gotten other Sopraninos to voice fine in that range, but not this one....it may well be causing the issue. Considering the tiny-ness of these horns, that incursion into the tube may not be insubstantial from a blowing performance point of view (?)

Look at the other suspects which 1saxman notes above, as well.

But that is a pretty bizarre fabrication detail.....
 

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Benade in his writing is clear that the inside "corners" of the tonehole should be smooth and rounded in order to prevent turbulence which interferes with the sound wave. In my opinion what is shown in the photo is certainly a manufacturing flaw. A skilled repair tech could file/sand those to be flush with the bore with the right tools. Any minor blemishes to the inside wall of the tube as a result of this process would be negligible compared to the "protrusion" of the tonehole wall into the bore.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Wow, thanks for all the feedback! This horn is otherwise well built and the rest of the range is smooth as butter. I'm not entirely sure the problem isn't lack of experience with sopranino, but I thought something didn't look right so I thought I'd ask.

Have you tried other mouthpieces?
The only other piece I've played is the stock piece. The high end is actually a little easier with that piece, but it has a smaller chamber and a higher baffle. Decent for jazz with a Fibracell 4.5 soprano reed. For classical I'm a "Rascher Guy." I chose the Caravan because I want a dark classical tone. I'm curious to see if the Vandoren would help with the upper register, but I've heard it can be a little bright (and pricy). I've always found Selmers and Yanys too bright for my classical tastes on the other horns, so I figured they might not work for me on 'nino either.
 

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Why does one soprano (probably Yanasisawa) play very easily in altissimo while others are really difficult?
It is to do with tiny differences in shaping of the air column in the neck and a little beyond, and also in the shaping, height, diameter and location of tone holes.

Most of this stuff is apparent only to, and understood by the very few experts in the world. (A significant step in bore diameter is quite common and more obvious.)
This is all to do with the intricacies of acoustic design.

Benade offered huge insight into the acoustic science of woodwinds and his focus was on ideals. He did acknowledge at least one error when it came to compromises. Seeing all instrument design involves many compromises (eg the octave vent protruding into the bore), I think it is entirely conceivable that some manufacturers' research and experiment may take the complicated science of compromise a little further.
Top soprano makers certainly have experimented with deliberate bore protrusions in the neck, in the form of threading the bore or corrugating it over certain areas.

Whatever. I think it would be a pretty brave person who alters the bore of the top end of their soprano, unless you have input from experts on the compromises made (copied?).

You say the brand is Orpheus.
It is hard enough for a reputable brand to get the acoustic design of a sop sax right, let alone a pretty much unknown manufacturer who may have nil detailed knowledge of acoustic design but just certain skills in copying.
It's what they don't accurately copy that matters, even a thousandth of an inch here and there. I would not expect such a brand to make sopranos, which are so fussy, that perform well over the range. As with everything else, you get what you pay for.
To blame these tone hole intrusions really is total guessing. There are plenty of poorly performing sopranos that don't have bore intrusions.
 
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